Shoot-Out In Deadly Trails (Preview)

Chapter One

“I just wish I could go with you now,” Violet said, running her hand down her new husband’s arm. “I don’t know how I’ll survive the next two weeks without you.”

“Oh, darling.” Mathew embraced her. “We managed to converse only in letters for the past year. It’s only two more weeks.”

“I know, but ever since I laid eyes on you in person, I knew we were meant to spend the rest of our lives together. I never want to be away from your side again. Never!”

“And I never want that, either. But I have responsibilities back home. I need to make sure things are being handled back at the ranch, and I want to ensure everything’s perfect for your arrival.”

The couple sat on a wooden bench nailed to the platform. Other people milled about, all waiting for the train. Some were waiting together to board, others were merely waiting with loved ones until it was time to say goodbye.

Violet Jones was one of the young women waiting to bid her lover adieu, and she wasn’t happy about it. He had traveled across the country just a month before to meet her in person for the first time. It had been exhilarating, to say the least.

She had met Mathew Harlam through an ad in the paper. He was a gentleman living in California. And not just any gentleman, either.

He was both lonely and rich.

To Violet, a young woman only twenty years old, life had been unnecessarily difficult. She was an orphan, and had been since she was only two months old.

Her mother had passed in childbirth, and her father had contracted cholera only weeks later. She was left to the care of her grandmother, but the woman was hard and selfish, and she didn’t want the burden of raising another child.

So, Violet was taken to the nearest orphanage.

She was a feisty child with bright orange hair and equally bright green eyes. But she also had a temper to match. She was driven and brave, and though the nuns at the orphanage had done their best to teach her to be a quiet, meek young lady, she had a fire in her that refused to be tamed.

It was this fire that drew Mathew to her when she first wrote, telling him of her childhood only briefly, but more of her dream to head to the West one day. She had been charming and outgoing, well-spoken despite being something of a tomboy.

At least, these were the things her new husband had often told her when he wrote back. He had fallen in love with her quite quickly, and she was thrilled when he finally proposed.

You shall come out to California, and the two of us shall be married that very day! I’ll bring you home to my ranch, and the mansion that is now your very own castle. How do you like that? A castle of your own? Much like those princesses you tell me about from those books you read. You are my princess, darling Violet, and soon you shall be my queen. 

Please, let me know in your next correspondence what you wish for me to do. I’ll send you a train ticket with my next letter, and I hope to see you shortly after. 

You are the love of my life, and I can’t wait to finally meet you in person. 

All my love,

Mathew 

Violet had read the end of that letter over and over, her heart thudding in her chest as she thought about what it would be like to travel to California.

But she also worried.

Supposed she were to get there and he changed his mind when he met her? She couldn’t risk that. She had to make sure she was heading into a secure situation when she left Vermont.

So, in her next letter, Violet had insisted Mathew come back east and marry her there. She’d said she wanted her friends to be present, and she would feel much safer heading west knowing she had a husband waiting for her when she arrived.

She’d drawn on her most charming, most convincing style of writing in her response, so she hadn’t been surprised when his next letter told her he was soon to follow.

But now, the time had come for Mathew to head back to the ranch and leave Violet behind. Though the wedding had been beautiful, and the past week that they had spent together as a married couple had been better than she had ever imagined, Violet didn’t want Mathew to leave without her.

She felt better when he was in sight. When she was able to reach out and touch him. It gave her a sense of control and security she hadn’t often experienced in her life, and she hesitated to let it go, even temporarily.

“Don’t you pay to have the servants handle those things?” Violet asked as she puckered her lip into a pout. It hadn’t taken her long to realize Mathew could be swayed quite easily when she pouted.

At least, with most things. He seemed pretty determined to leave right now, so Violet had to work harder than usual to convince him that staying was the right thing to do.

“They take care of a lot of the work, yes,” Mathew responded. “But I’m the boss, so I need to be there to oversee that things are just as I want them. It’s a big deal for me that you’re finally coming home, dear. It really is.”

“It’s a big deal for me to finally have a real home, too!” Violet exclaimed. “But again, when you stepped off this train for the first time, I hoped you’d decide to stay until I could join you.”

“It’s only a couple of weeks.”

Pouting harder than before, Violet shook her head slightly so her red curls bounced from side to side over her shoulders. She had to squint to see him, shielding her green eyes from the daylight, but she knew her husband was having a difficult time leaving her.

She was doing everything she could think to get him to stay, but none of it worked. He was very clearly ready to head home, and she’d have to follow later. That was the plan, after all.

Violet had been okay with the idea when they’d first devised how it would work out, but after seeing her new husband in person, she felt there wasn’t a second to waste. She wanted to be with him at all times.

She wanted to ensure he was really and truly hers. And that was something much more easily accomplished when he was present. With him heading back to California, she wouldn’t have any way of speaking with him again save through letters.

And after the luxury of face-to-face conversation, the thought of conversing through the post made her want to cry.

“Don’t do that,” Mathew coaxed. “I don’t want to leave any more than you want me to. I really wish there was another way.”

“You said it yourself, you’re the boss. Why don’t you just send a telegraph and tell them you’ll be back later than planned?”

“Because that doesn’t work with what I have planned back home,” he replied. “There are business matters requiring my attention, and I can’t just leave those hanging.”

“I thought you said you could do as you pleased, being the owner of the place.” Now Violet folded her arms over her chest and refused to look into Mathew’s eyes.

“I can, within reason. Have you ever wondered how I managed to get so rich? It didn’t come from irresponsibility, I can tell you that.”

“I guess I just don’t understand why you would pay someone to take care of your property while you’re away if you have to go back to them and check on it yourself even when you would rather not.”

Violet kept her arms folded over her chest, despite the fact that Mathew tried to pull one arm free so he could hold her hand. She was used to men doing as she wanted, and she had managed to get them to do that through her pouting.

But this was the first in her life she’d ever been married, and Violet was still learning how life would be with Mathew. He wasn’t trying to win her over like the other men who bought her things or did as she asked.

He had already married her. So what was she to do now to get him to notice what she wanted?

“Silly girl,” Mathew said as he shook his head. “You’re young. You haven’t had to manage a large place like I do, so of course you don’t understand how that works. But let me tell you, it takes a lot more work than you realize. Trust me.”

“I guess I’m just scared you’ll forget all about me when you go.”

Violet had to do something bigger. She really had to make an impression on him, since he was clearly refusing to change his mind. She unfolded her arms, throwing them around his neck and sobbing.

“Now, now, there there.” Mathew patted her back, consoling her to keep others from staring. “I know this isn’t easy. I don’t want to go, I really don’t, but the train is pulling into the station now, and I need you to be strong.”

“How can I when you’re leaving? It’s like my whole world is getting on that train, and I don’t know for sure I’ll ever make it west myself!” She sobbed.

“You stop this nonsense at once!” Mathew hissed. “You are the love of my life. I’ve told you and I’ll tell you again. You have your ticket already, and you must take care of your affairs here. Once those are handled, you’ll be on the very next train out of here.”

“And you’ll be waiting for me when I get to California?” she managed with a shaky tone.

“I’ll be there as the sun comes up, waiting for you,” Mathew promised her. He gave her another kiss, then rose. She released him as he did, sliding her hand down to take his. They walked up to the conductor and Mathew handed the man his ticket.

“Just the one?” the conductor asked.

“For now,” Mathew said. “My bride will be coming behind shortly.”

“It doesn’t feel that short,” Violet said once again.

“The time will fly by, my dear,” Mathew assured her. “I’ll send you a telegraph as soon as I’m back to let you know I made it safely, and by the time that happens, it’ll only be just over a week before you’ll be on your way.”

“Okay,” she said, giving her new husband one last squeeze. “I just feel like I’ll never see you again.”

“Don’t say such things,” Mathew replied, his voice cheerful. “The time will pass before you know it, and I’ll be waiting for you.”

They kissed briefly once more, and Mathew stepped onto the train, disappearing inside the car.

Violet moved back so other passengers could board, but she lingered on the platform. She scanned the windows of the train car, hoping she might get another glimpse of Mathew before he left.

A mix of emotions ran through her. She wasn’t happy with the fact he was leaving, and even less happy that he’d not listened to her and extended his stay because of her.

He kept insisting that the ranch needed him, but if that were true, why hire those people to tend the place while he was gone? She didn’t understand, and she was worried he wasn’t telling her the full truth.

But, looking down at the ring he’d placed on her finger, Violet knew it was only a matter of days before she’d be on her way to California. She’d finally be able to see the ranch for herself. No more trying to imagine what it was like.

No more wondering how it would be to have servants willing to bring dinner and wash the dishes. No more being poor and relying on the things she could convince others to give her in order to make a living. It wasn’t charity, she told herself. She worked for her earnings, just in a different way.

She might be merely pretending that she was interested in certain men so they would buy her things, but she didn’t see any great harm in it. It was a way to get by. To purchase food. To pay for a room when the weather was bad.

Now, she was a married woman, and she’d managed to find someone wealthy enough to care for her.

The train pulled out of the station with a blaring whistle, and Violet waved at the car her husband had boarded. She couldn’t see him inside, but she hoped he was waving back at her.

Two weeks wasn’t long, but in some ways, it felt it would last forever. It was long enough for a life to change, that was certain.

And that made Violet nervous.

 

Chapter Two

Two Weeks Later

“Is that really all you’re taking with you?” Ginny looked over Violet’s carpet bag with a critical eye.

“What else should I take?” Violet asked. “It’ll only take a few days to get to California. I can’t imagine I’ll need more than this.”

“Sure, but what’ll you wear when you get there?”

“I already told you, I’m a wealthy woman now, Ginny. I’m not wearing this old stuff anymore. I don’t want to ever look at it again, in fact.”

“You’re so lucky.” Ginny didn’t bother hiding the envy in her voice. “I don’t know how you do it, but it’s like you always get the men wrapped around your little finger.”

“This time’s different,” Violet said. “I married Mathew, remember?”

“But you and I both know you chose to marry him because the money is involved,” Ginny pointed out. She looked over at Violet with an arrogant air, daring her to argue.

“Not at all,” Violet said. “You’re mistaken if you think I can’t change. I fell in love with Mathew, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him.”

“I see.”

Ginny was clearly unconvinced, and Violet bristled at the implied accusation.

“If you think I only married the man for his money, you don’t know me at all!” she cried.

“I didn’t say that was the only reason. I know you’ve fallen for more than one of your suitors in the past, but they weren’t rich enough for you to allow them to put a ring on your finger,” Ginny said.

“I had to make sure I’m taken care of,” Violet replied with a shrug. “And Mathew is the man who can care for me right into my old age.”

“Don’t you worry that something might happen?”

“Such as?” Violet asked.

“You said the man is a rancher, and you’re going out West where there are all kinds of outlaws and such. What makes you think it’s safe?” Ginny looked at her, now with concern. “What’ll you do if he gets himself killed or something by robbers?”

Violet thought for a moment. “Why, I guess I would just have to carry on. I’m his wife, after all. It’s not as though they would make me leave the ranch or anything.”

“And what do you know about ranching?” Ginny scoffed.

“That’s just it, I don’t have to know anything. You see, with the money Mathew has—we have—I can pay the hired hands to take care of the place. All I have to do is give the orders, and they do it.” She grinned.

“What about when you run out of money?”

“You’re always looking for the bad side of things, aren’t you?” Violet rolled her eyes as she spoke. “The ranch hands make more money for the ranch with the work they do, and they get paid to do more work. It’s a cycle that pretty much takes care of itself.”

“And you just tell them what to do?”

“Exactly.”

“Golly!” Ginny shook her head in amazement. “Now I really am jealous. Where do I get me one of these ranchers?”

Violet laughed. “I found Mathew in an ad in the paper.”

“I think I’d be too scared to do that.”

“That’s why you’re never going to be rich,” Violet replied. Ginny wrinkled her nose.

“I don’t know what good it would do me to be rich if I get kidnapped by some outlaw because I didn’t know the person before I went off to marry him,” she retorted.

“That’s why you write the letters, so you get to know each other. Anyway, I don’t know why you always think such bad things will happen. So many women these days meet their husbands through the post; you might want to give it a chance before you judge it,” Violet scolded her friend.

“I don’t know. I would rather be safe than sorry. I would rather live my entire life poor and safe than murdered out there somewhere,” Ginny said. “Anyway, what are you doing with those dresses you aren’t keeping?”

“I’ll take some of them over to the seamstress and see if she’ll give me a good price. There’s a lot of wear in a couple. I’m not sure I’d get much at the mercantile, but Margaret’s sure to pay for at least the scraps.”

“Mind if I take this one?” Ginny held up a blue gingham dress with pockets sewn across the front.

“How much will you give me for it?”

“You know I ain’t got a lot of money!” Ginny cried. “And you just said you’re going off to be rich now! Why don’t you do your friend a good deed and let me just have it?”

“Sounds like you’re begging me for charity.” Violet looked up from her carpet bag and stared at her friend. “You know that’s bad form, isn’t it?”

“If you ain’t gonna be using it, I don’t see the harm in asking for a hand up,” Ginny argued. “After all, you said yourself you ain’t likely going to get a lot for it at the mercantile, so you might as well do someone else some good with it.”

“Oh, alright.” Violet thought about it a second longer before conceding. “But only because I feel bad for you. If I wasn’t going off to live my own fairytale, you’d better believe you would be giving me money for that.”

“That’s why you’ve always been able to do so well yourself,” Ginny said with a sigh. “I’m afraid I’m too nice to people sometimes.”

“You have to look out for yourself, Ginny,” Violet said. “That’s the only way to make it in a world like this. Especially when you’re coming out of that orphanage.”

Ginny shuddered at the reminder of where she’d just left.

Violet’s friend hadn’t moved into a home—she’d left because she was too old to stay any longer. She was nearly a grown woman, too old for anyone to want to adopt. Her only option was to either start working there herself, or to move out and try to make it on her own.

Ginny had always had dreams of being wild and free like Violet, but she wasn’t the same girl Violet was. She was timid, Violet was wild. She was quiet, Violet would yell at the top of her lungs just for fun.

Ginny had admitted there were many times when she had to hide the smile on her face as Violet was scolded by the nuns at the orphanage. Ginny had had to learn from watching her, rather than Violet teaching her personally.

Not that she didn’t care about Ginny, but Violet didn’t have the time or the knowledge to give the other girl step-by-step lessons on how to make it on her own. Violet had figured out a lot by herself, so she figured Ginny would be able to do the same.

“Thank you.” Ginny wrapped the dress over her arm. “I do appreciate you being so kind to me.”

“You’d better learn how to take care of yourself,” Violet said. “I’m leaving in the morning, and I don’t want to worry about what you’re doing back here on your own.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” Ginny mumbled as she waved off her friend.

Violet looked through her jewelry box. She had already taken most of her pieces out and sold them to anyone she could, and there wasn’t room for the whole box in her carpet bag.

“I guess I’ll have to leave this, too,” she said. “You think I could try to sell it to someone tonight?”

“You could try, but I don’t know who you’d get to buy it in that short of time,” Ginny said.

Violet wasn’t happy with that opinion, but Ginny was likely right. She didn’t really want to be bothered with disposing of it at all. It wasn’t a very expensive box, just a gift from a gentleman who had been trying to impress her but had failed.

She’d expected more from a man who claimed to have a lot of wealth, but the man kept insisting she ought to be engaged to him or even married before he would lavish his money on her. And Violet wasn’t willing to take that risk.

She didn’t want to be trapped with anyone.

Life had taught her young to only rely on herself. If she couldn’t control a situation, she was skeptical about getting involved at all.

“I suppose that’s it, then.” Violet closed her carpet bag and rose to her feet. “I’ve wrapped up any affairs that needed my attention earlier this afternoon. As for the rest, I suppose they’ll figure out one way or another I skipped town and won’t be back.”

She laughed at her own cleverness in avoiding some of her debts, and Ginny shook her head in amazement.

“So what are you doing now?” Ginny asked.

“Do you want to go for a walk with me?” Violet walked to the window and looked out. “This is my last night in this town, or really on this side of the country. I promise you once I leave, I’ll never be coming back!”

“Okay,” Ginny agreed. “Gosh, I wish we could switch places right now. I would give anything to leave and never come back here!”

“All in time,” Violet told her younger friend. “You will find a man who will take care of you, too, and you can do the same thing. Just keep an eye on the post. See what men are looking for brides.”

“I’ll think about it,” Ginny promised.

“You’d better. Maybe someday you’ll come out to California and we can be friends again.”

“Perhaps.”

Violet led the way out the hotel door and down the steps. She hoped Ginny would be okay without her. But she’d learned she couldn’t be too worried about others, either.

Too many children had passed through the orphanage in Violet’s childhood for her to grow too close to anyone. She simply didn’t wish to be hurt again, and she would tell anyone who asked.

But she still hoped her friend would do well.

Because she was leaving first thing in the morning, and Violet had meant it with all her heart when she’d said it.

She would never come back to this place.

Never again.


“Shoot-Out In Deadly Trails” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Violet arrives in California filled with hope and dreams. However, when she meets the town’s Sheriff, she is shocked to hear that her husband has died. Desperate and alone, Violet has no idea what to do until the Sheriff tells her about Frank, a bounty hunter with a thirst for justice. From that day, she has only one thing on her mind: vengeance.

When she finds the motive behind her husband’s death, will she be able to get the help she needs?

Frank has lived a hard life but he has vowed to help those in need. If he wants to put evil behind bars, he must bring back the man who murdered Violet’s husband. Soon, a deadly game of dangerous outlaws and secret schemes begins. Yet, as he gets to know Violet, he finds himself eager to give her more… A second chance at happiness.

When the brave gunman comes face to face with a ruthless criminal though, only one will live to tell the tale…

Tragedy unfolds with each passing day for Frank and Violet. When Violet gets caught in the middle of a secret she can never reveal, she becomes a pawn in a treacherous game. Frank takes it upon himself to save the woman who gave him a reason to live. Together, will they uncover the truth behind a mysterious death and make whoever is behind it pay?

“Shoot-Out In Deadly Trails” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

3 thoughts on “Shoot-Out In Deadly Trails (Preview)”

  1. From the first two chapters sounds like a great book. Can’t wait for the chance to read it when you finish and get it published. Violet sounds like a different kind of girl who will get her eyes opened when she reaches California. Keep up the good work on your writing!!

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